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70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise


Day Two Highlights Include Performances By Obliteration, Christian Mistress and Monte Pittman

SXSW can be an overwhelming endeavor. From word-of-mouth parties and secret performances to unofficial day shows that the festival doesn't promote, planning takes more than cursory glances. After last year's exhaustive outing, I learned a lesson: keep it simple (stupid) and don't over plan. One best experiences South By Southwest by staying in a downtown hotel and taking pedicabs (or real car cabs depending on the extent of travel). For only $2 a day, a bus is the way to go for Austinites, as long as they're not staying past midnight.

I drove my car because I planned on being out past the witching hour. Lots jack up their parking rates as much as $25, but I was free to come and go at will, and finding parking wasn't an issue this year. If you don't have a badge or wrist band, I suggest getting in line early. This is what I did for the Relapse Records Showcase at Dirty Dog Bar on 6th Street. I arrived 45 minutes early to find just a couple people in line. Each metal showcase this year, except for the metalcore shows such as one headlined by Attila, produced small lines at the start, but filled nearly to capacity around 10 or 11 pm.

Tech-death metallers, Pyrrhon started at 8 pm to a tiny, quiet crowd. The Brooklyn band's technical prowess, speed and ferocity would have gone over much better if billed on the same stage with Animals As Leaders on Friday. This was the Relapse Showcase, though, and the band has a new album to showcase, "The Mother of Virtues," which hits retail outlets on said label April 1st. Besides a few vocal effects by Doug Moore and the occasional groove, Pyrrhon's music changes so often to the point of distraction, but I think fans of Gorguts "Obscura" should be attentive.

Denver's Primitive Man signed to Relapse just last year and were in town playing cuts from "Scorn," which Relapse reissued the same year. As with Pyrrhon before them, Primitive Man possesses the musical qualities one expects from a Relapse band. The guitarist/vocalist and bassist in this three-piece band were decked out in all black and wore Doom and Anhedonist t-shirts. Their sludgy rhythms, feedback and the large stature of the two guitarists brought to mind Crowbar's early years. The comparison stopped here, though, when the group picked up the pace with grinding notes with the texture of a gravel fight.

Obliteration was a name on the radar of many attending SXSW this year. The young Norwegian band was only scheduled to play this show. I only found one other show listed in the East for the band. The group was well worth the hype, as they blasted a neck-twisting mix of old school death metal, thrash, punk and black metal. Fenris of Darkthrone fame gave them kudos when he said their 2009 album "NEKROPSALMS" reminded him of Darkthrone albums "Soulside Journey" and "Goatlord." Their singer's voice echoed with the same type of hollow tone as Nocturnal Culto, while his blonde hair and rounded cheeks brought to mind Johnny Hedlund of Unleashed. "Black Death Horizon" yielded some of the best head banging riffs of the whole week!

Philly-based group, Nothing, were the odd-man out for the night. While the crowd felt the band's build towards intensity, their heavy parts were never that impressive. These moments were at least hook-worthy; their melodic vocals and alternative movements didn't hold sway over the metal fans in attendance. Fortunately, for the band, there were many hipsters in the crowd drawn to the shoe gaze band's Indie rock ways.

I've missed Christian Mistress perform at SXSW and, I believe, at a show or two in town. I missed their show at Mohawk the night before, so I made pains to catch their act tonight. Ever since their full-length debut "Agony & Opium," I've been enchanted by their classic metal approach with raspy-tongued Christine Davis at the helm. The Mistress took the stage at midnight to a dwindled crowd. This did not slow the band's enthusiasm, though. Davis was in full form; she sang aggressively and passionately and always within range. Her members traded off soaring leads and produced infectious guitar hooks. "That's how you play a flying v!," Venomous Maximus front man, Gregg Higgins, exclaimed to me while banging his head near the stage.

I left Dirty Dog around 1 am to catch Monte Pittman's 1:30 set a few blocks away at the Hanger Lounge. I recall seeing ambulances coming through with rescue equipment, but didn't have a clue what transpired. Not even when Pittman's publicist told me about the accident did I know the full extent of what happened at 12:30 or that it happened in front of a venue I frequent, one containing friends on the pay roll. I didn't fully soak in this travesty until I arrived at home and turned on my computer. It will be in the conscious of this town, and even overseas (a man from Holland died) for many years.

At this time, the accident didn't play heavily in my mind. I was there to catch Monte Pittman's show as part of "The Heart of Texas" showcase presented by Sony. This was another rooftop show in the warehouse district. I caught A Life Once Lost in a similar setting last year. Madonna's guitarist, Monte Pittman played tracks from his "The Power of Three" album. Pittman waited until Radio rockers, Fuel finished an acoustic set on the roof next door. This concert wasn't a metal show, the bill appeared to have artists of all types, and with the Fuel show next door, I was one of the few conspicuous metal heads in the crowd. Some in attendance were there because they personally new Pittman from his hometown of Longview, Texas.

Monte and his three-piece rocked the roof regardless of musical inclination. His mix of big chorus lines with fat grooves, ala Helmet and Pantera, proved the invisible strings to get the audiences' heads moving. Also, there were the fast parts that perfectly suited new drummer, Scott Fuller of Abysmal Dawn fame. "A Dark Horse" and "Missing" were two highlights from Pittman's set. His third full-length, and Metal Blade debut "The Power of Three," still stands as my top album of the year read my interview.

I didn't arrive home until around 3 am and needed a day off. Taking a Thursday off splits up the week nicely. Therefore, day three was on Friday. Check back in to MU for my report on Friday's Metalsucks showcase.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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